“Midwest is Best” is a favorite mantra of the proud midwesterner, and no season realizes that mantra more than fall. In a series of three posts, we’re hoping to scratch the surface of why we’re lucky to call the Heartland home. For our third post, we were lucky enough to ask some questions to the team behind Driftless magazine.
In the digital age, when our newspapers are delivered via tweet or Facebook post, there remains something to be said for the glossy, vibrant pages of a great magazine. Sweeten that pot with the magazine being about the Midwest and by Midwesterners, and well…we’re head over our print-loving heels.
The most glowing example of what we just described would hands down be Driftless magazine, which, in their own words, is “tangible proof that the Midwest is more than merely flyover territory.”
Driftless is an independent publication started by Shelly Westerhausen and Leah Fithian, with the recent but integral additional of Anna Powell Teeter. All three are alumni of Indiana University Bloomington. Printed bi-annually, Driftless is the definition of a labor of love. From ideation to print it is meticulously curated with seasonal recipes, stunning landscape photography, and features on independent makers, artists, and businesses scattered throughout the Midwest.
With three issues under their belt, the team is gearing up for their next issue to be released before the year’s end. In anticipation, we were lucky enough to pick the team of Driftless‘ collective brain, so cozy up to a comfy chair and settle in for a good read…
What was the driving force behind starting this magazine?
About a year and a half ago, we decided that it was important for us to begin sharing the amazing things going on in the Midwest with the rest of the world. We were continually disappointed that many of our favorite printed publications neglected to highlight the small business, contemporary artists, makers, and adventurers that are thriving here. So we thought – okay, let’s do this.
We feel very differently about content that we read online versus in printed form. We’ve always been drawn to physical artifacts, but also to finding ways to combine new and old processes. We enjoy the entire process of slowing down to create a physical object that is worthy of holding on to. We want Driftless to be one of those objects, the sort of magazine that you keep around. Or, at least pass along to a friend instead of merely tossing it aside. There is something disposable about blogging and the Internet. We rarely read something twice online, and we love the idea of being able to go back to the magazine to read it over and over again and find something you perhaps didn’t the first time around.
Behind the scenes, from concept to print, take us through the creation of an issue of Driftless.
We hold open submissions for every issue we print, so anyone can submit something they feel might be a good feature. Anything that is Midwest-based and seasonally relevant can be considered for print. We’re always looking for a variety of content — from illustrations to photo essays, small business to artist profiles, recipe spreads to adventure stories. We want a broad audience to find something interesting within the pages of each issue. And we love the idea of discovering something new that you didn’t realize you might have a passion for — like trying a recipe from an issue and realizing that you love baking homemade bread!
We seek out particular artists and small businesses to highlight, interview, and photograph. We reach out to them and gather any content that we need for that particular feature, and we sort through the submissions we receive. If we receive an amazing recipe, but no images, we’ll make the recipe and then photograph the finished piece ourselves. For our Midwest Tastemaker’s Guide, we reach out to particular businesses with Midwest-made products that we feel our readers are going to love as much as we do.
We lay everything out and go through our design process, making sure images are high resolution and large enough for print, proofreading over and over (and over) again, picking out our cover images, which always seems to be the hardest part, and then send everything over to our printer. We go through both digital and hard copy proofs before we approve for final plate printing. We have a press check where we double check colors and the amount of ink being laid down on each page, and then anxiously await word that it’s ready to be picked up. Then we begin sending out pre-orders to both individual clients and shops that are carrying the magazine. It is such a wonderful feeling getting to hold that finished issue in your hands.
When/what can we look forward to in the coming issue?
Early next month! And, so many great things! We are very excited about a particular holiday recipe spread (thinking cookie tray ideas galore), the amazing artist features we have this time around, and our expanded Midwest Tastemaker’s Gift Guide (to give you even more ideas of what to get those special people in your life this year).
What’s the best Midwestern adventure you’ve embarked on that you would urge others to seek out?
Leah: Driving and camping around Lake Michigan during the summer. But make sure you give yourself enough time for this – don’t try and rush it, or you’ll miss out on so many things. Stop at every cherry orchard you feel like. Don’t hesitate to check out the random antique shops you pass by. Get lost in the woods in the UP. Swim at any point you can — the lake is so different on every end: north, east, south, and west. Check out Sleeping Bear Dunes, Tahquamenon Falls State Park, the Hiawatha National Forest. Get cheese curds in Wisconsin, cherries in Michigan, tacos from Rio’s, and Sherman’s ice cream from Oink’s in New Buffalo, MI.
Shelly: The Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore — it is so beautiful and such a hidden gem.
Anna: I have great memories from Sleeping Bear Dunes and spending time near the lake.
If you had to move from the Midwest, what dish would you cook to remind you of the heartland?
Leah: My mom’s spaghetti and butternut squash soup and her apple, peach, or blueberry pie.
Shelly: Pierogi. I grew up with them because of the huge Polish community in Chicago and northwest Indiana. And persimmon pudding!
Anna: I would make my mom’s chocolate chip pie!
In your opinion, what makes the Midwest a great place to start a business?
The support and encouragement you receive from those around you. We have encountered (almost) entirely nothing but enthusiasm and love for what we’re doing. We are constantly surrounded by other creatives, makers, and doers that it’s almost impossible to not be continuously inspired to keep doing what you love.
Thank you so much Shelly, Leah, and Anna!
The first three issues of Driftless are available at Neighborly, with the next issue on our shelves soon.